<p>Janelle Monae</p>

Janelle Monae

Top 10 albums of 2010 from The Beat Goes On

Where do Kanye West, Lady Antebellum and Vampire Weekend finish?

As we count down the hours to the end of 2010, here’s one last look back at the albums that kept me smiling throughout the year. By their very nature, such lists are subjective and I’m sure there will be readers that hated some of the albums on this list as much as I loved them. But such lists are also often about the thrill of discovery and the thought of shining the light on a perhaps overlooked gem.

My colleague Katie Hasty posted her excellent Top 10 here. Check that out as well.

1) “Broken Bells,” Broken Bells:  Danger Mouse and The Shins’ James Mercer create a beautiful, melancholy blend of synthesizers and acoustic instrumentation and sorrow all woven together in a beautiful effort. We almost hope it remains a one-off as the journey feels complete with this one, at times transcendent, effort.

2) “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,”  Kanye West: Take one of music’s most controversial and talented figures and see what happens when he rips his psyche open for all to see. West can’t hide his demons and they all join him here in living color and sheer brilliance. He’s one of the few artists whose self-indulgence is as compelling as it is narcissistic.

3) “Sigh No More,”   Mumford and Sons:
British folk rock acolytes brought the beauty and the bite with their debut. The acoustic quartet ties its disparate influences together through inspired thumping on all manner of stringed instruments, including guitars, mandolins, banjos and dobros. Hit single, “Little Lion Man,” is just the tip of the iceberg here.

4) “Archandroid,” Janelle Monae:
  She’s a chameleon who shifts shapes and musical styles with tremendous, seemingly effortless ease. On “Archandroid,” she’s retro and futuristic, pop, funk and punk all at once. Fascinating.

5) “Up on the Ridge,” Dierks Bentley: Pretty country boy veers away from the mainstream to make a bluegrass flavored album that has as much heart as it does talent. He smartly surrounds himself by real deals like  Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson and Del McCoury, whose haunting high-lonesome singing on Bentley’s cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” is the album’s centerpiece.

6) “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum:  This co-ed country trio avoided the sophomore slump and how with its second album that built on the flawless harmonies and strong melodies from its debut. The title track was one of the best songs of the year of any genre. To be sure, calling Lady A the country equivalent of Fleetwood Mac is a bit much, but they sure do make loving (music) fun.

7) “Contra,”  Vampire Weekend: Smart, literate rock that doesn’t overreach its ambitions, but never panders to the lowest common denominator.  Plus, Vampire Weekend’s music is often infused with a joy missing in so much smart rock. Having said that, after its usage in the ubiquitous Honda commercial,  I’m not sure I ever need to hear “Contra” track “Holiday” again.

8) “The Union,” Elton John and Leon Russell:
An album made for all the right reasons: John’s desire to lift up his mentor and musical hero to past heights, bolstered by no pretense of pandering to radio. Worth the price of admission for the keyboard shoot-outs and Neil Young’s appearance on the beautiful “Gone to Shiloh” alone.

9) “Count Yard Hounds,”  Court Yard Hounds:
This album, from Dixie Chicks’ sibs Martie Maguire and Emily Robison disappeared without making much of a sound (to paraphrase one of the album’s stronger tracks), which is a shame given its understated loveliness. From the Southern California loveliness of “The Coast” to the heartbreaking stomp of “Ain’t No Son” and Robison’s confessional divorce tunes, the album was a subtle joy.

10) “I Learned the Hard Way,” Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings:
These funk/soul lovers just keep getting better. They pay homage to their R&B forefathers and much of their sound can be directly traced back to acts like James Brown or Mavie Staples, but Jones and the Dap Kings still create their own shimmering, irresistible blend. And, as they say, imitation is the sincerely form of flattery.

Runners Up:  Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” Black Keys’ “Brothers,” Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise,” Sade’s “Soldier of Love,” Jamey Johnson’s “The Guitar Song,” and The National’s “High Violet.”


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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' 'Grenade' explodes on the Hot 100 and sets a new record

Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Rihanna and Pink also end year with a smile

The top of the Hot 100 remains explosive as Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” replaces Katy Perry’s “Firework” at No. 1.

Not only does Mars get bragging rights to the last chart topper for 2010, but he also becomes the first male solo acts since 1997 to have his first two singles got to No. 1, according to Billboard. The last time that happened was with Puff Daddy with “No Time” and “Can’t Hold Nobody Down.” “Grenade” is still picking up steam at both radio and as a singles seller, meaning it could settle in at No. 1 for another week.

“Firework” fizzles to No. 2, while Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” rises 5-3, Rihanna’s “What’s My Name” slips 4-3 and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” falls 4-5.

Rounding out the top 10 are Wiz Khalifa with his first foray in the upper reaches with “Black and Yellow,” which lands at No. 6,  Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” rises to No. 7, Trey Songz’ “Bottom Up” is No. 8, Black-Eyed Peas’ “The Time (Dirty Bit)” is No. 9 and Bruno Mars shows up again at No. 10 as “Just the Way You Are” drops 6-10.

The highest chart debut belongs to The Lonely Island’s exuberant “I Just Had Sex” with Akon, featured as a digital short on Dec. 18’s “Saturday Night Live.”

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<p>Kanye West in &quot;Monster&quot;</p>

Kanye West in "Monster"

Watch: Kayne West's NSFW 'Monster' with Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z and Rick Ross

Vampires, dead bodies and necrophilia, oh my...

Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” landed on almost ever 2010 Top 10 year-end list and with good reason. But if you still needed proof of his brilliance, check out the just-released video for “Monster.”

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<p>Britney's on her way back and it sounds like she wants you to make her feel guilty about it.</p>

Britney's on her way back and it sounds like she wants you to make her feel guilty about it.

Find out when you can hear the new Britney Spears' single, 'Hold It Against Me'

What have she, Dr. Luke and Max Martin cooked up now?

Hey y’all, Britney Spears had promised us she’d unveil her new single by Christmas, but it looks like we’ll have it right after Epiphany (that’s Jan. 6, by the way), instead.

The new track, “Hold It Against Me” (and we can only imagine what “it” is here) bows on Jan. 7, according to Entertainment Weekly.  Sharon Dastur, program director for New York pop radio station Z-100, told EW that the song, produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin,  features a beat that is “really unique compared to other artists - this infectious bass beat beneath the song. Plus, the hook is just amazing."

The track will be the first single off of Spears’ still untitled March studio album, which we talk more about here.

Are you looking forward to Britney's return?

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: The year in pop music boiled down to a fun five minutes

DJ Earworm creates a video montage of Billboard's biggest hits

Looking for a quick way to recap the year in pop or for a fun parlor game for your New Year’s Eve party or a way to combat cabin fever if you’re still snowed in?

Watch the below video and see how many of the 25 tunes you can name. We present DJ Earworm’s “United State of Pop 2010,” in which the mash-up artist takes the top 25 songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart and condenses them into a five-minute Cliff’s Notes version of the year--but it’s a lot more entertaining.  He mainly uses Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” as the backdrops, giving mighty short shrift to Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” but he still manages to get Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” in there amid a sea of dance-oriented songs from the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. If you follow the European charts, Earworm has also created some fun versions for you to watch.

As we noted in out Top Singles list here, pop music came roaring back in all its forms in 2010, providing us with some of the most disposable, yet lovable, songs in years.


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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Lady Gaga's 'Monster' 2010's best-selling album: Who makes the top 10?

It's her planet, we just live here

So Lady Gaga really does rule the world: "The Fame Monster" was the top selling album in the world in 2010, according to Media Traffic's United World Chart, a German website that tallies these things.  The set sold 5.8 million copies in 2010. Here's the sad thing: we remember not too long ago when that would have been the tally for U.S. sales alone in a year, not including the rest of the planet. We don't know how verifiable their numbers are, but it's good party chatter if nothing else. It also shows how, and this is no surprise, but how dominant and exportable American music remains around the world... and how crazy popular Michael Buble, whose "Crazy Love," logs in at No. 8 is.

Below is the top 10 list.

1. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster – 5.8 million
2. Eminem, Recovery – 5.7 million
3. Justin Bieber, My World + My World 2.0 – 5.6 million
4. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now – 3.6 million
5. Taylor Swift, Speak Now – 3.5 million
6. Susan Boyle, The Gift - 3 million
7. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D. – 3 million
8. Michael Buble, Crazy Love – 3 million
9. Sade, Solider Of Love – 2.3 million
10. Alicia Keys, The Element Of Freedom – 2.3 million

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<p>Beady Eye</p>

Beady Eye

Watch: Beady Eye's new video for 'Four Letter Word'

Former Oasis members prep for March 8 debut

Move along, nothing to see here.  So it is with “Four Letter Word,” the first video from Beady Eye,” the new Noel-Gallagher-less remains of Oasis.

Amid a psychedelic wash, we watch the group—composed of Liam Gallagher, Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock— in full shoegazer mode, complete with wearing sunglasses to perform in the dark. It’s 1999 all over again.

But what about the song? With its cascading, ominous guitar lines, straight-ahead drumming and Gallagher’s world-weary vocal delivery “Four-Letter Word” is straight out a James Bond movie (in fact, it would make a great theme with the "Nothing ever lasts forever" refrain). We don’t like it as much as the fun, spunky “Bring the Light,” and it doesn’t have the razor-sharp ennui that some of Oasis’s best material possessed, but it grows more infectious with repeated listenings. Sorry the same thing can’t be said about the video.

Beady Eye’s debut, “Different Gear, Still Speeding,” comes out March 8.


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<p>Taylor Swift is duking it out with Michael Jackson on the Billboard 200.</p>

Taylor Swift is duking it out with Michael Jackson on the Billboard 200.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson headed for Top of the Billboard 200

Holiday titles from Susan Boyle, 'Glee' and Jackie Evancho continue sales streak

Christmas keeps on giving long after the Dec. 25 actually passes. For years, the week after Christmas has often been the biggest total sales week of the year because people have gift cards and holiday cash burning a hole in their pocket. Snow storms may slow sales for a bit, but look for the next two weeks to have strong sales.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Katy Perry explodes again on the Billboard Hot 100 with 'Firework'

Bruno Mars' 'Grenade' threatens to burst her bubble

Katy Perry gets her Christmas present early: “Firework” logs its third week atop the BIllboard Hot 100. Moving into No. 2 is Bruno Mars’ “Grenade, and will likely take over the top spot next week. Mars also has reason to celebrate as he ends the year with two songs in the top 10: “Just the Way You Are” moves 7-6.

Also logging two spots near the top is Rihanna: “What’s My Name” featuring Drake falls 2-3 and “Only Girl in the World” drops slightly from 6-7, according to Billboard.

Pink’s “Raise You Glass” is No. 4, while Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” stands at No. 5. The Black Eyed Peas hangs at No. 8 with “The Time (Dirty Bit),” and, rounding out the top 10, Lil Wayne bows at No. 9 with “6 Foot 7 Foot” and Nelly’s “Just a Dream”  is No. 10.

Diddy Dirty Money look to have a hit on their hands with “Coming Home” as it moves 24-19. The highest debut belongs to Taio Cruz, whose “Higher” featuring Travie McCoy launches at No. 80.


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<p>Enrique Iglesias</p>

Enrique Iglesias

Watch: Enrique Iglesias's NSFW explicit video for 'Tonight (I'm F****** You)'

Why isn't this hotter?

Enrique Iglesias’s comeback continues with “Tonight (I’m Loving You),” which is already No. 18 on the charts. To pump up the volume, he’s now issued the video for explicit version, “Tonight (I’m Fucking You).” There’s not that much different in the two videos other than a few pixilated body parts in the clean version (which isn’t very clean).

I watched the video for “Tonight (I’m Fucking You)” with my 18-year-old goddaughter Scout, who, if possible, found the video even more ridiculous than I did.  Here’s our play by play.

(Video opens with Enrique in a strip club seemingly oblivious to the writhing, near naked bodies)

Scout: Dear God, for the sake of decency...”

Melinda: This is just trashy, it’s not hot at all.

Scout: I just saw nipples....Must I watch this again?

Melinda: See, this is what music journalists do. Great, isn’t it?

Scout: This is torturous. I don’t know what aspect offends me more? The constant repetition of the word “fucking.” Very few videos offend me with both the visual and the auditory.

Melinda: He’s playing rough with this girl and I’m learning way more about what positions he likes than I ever need to know. Ah... the explicit version comes with sound effects. Even though he sings, “I don’t mean to be rude,” I think that’s exactly what he means to be. This video is neither fish nor fowl. Just really put it out there instead of this half-hearted attempt at soft porn. I want it to be sexy, but it's not remotely so, even though he's usually so hot.

Scout: It makes me crave Bruno Mars to reassure myself that there are still decent guys willing to respect women.

(cut to Ludacris in back of limo with four undulating, willing girls as, oddly, Shirley Temple plays over the radio).

Scout: They should have just kept playing “Good Ship Lollipop.”

Melinda: How the hell did they get the license for that? It must be public domain.

Scout: (about the girls in the limo): All these girls need to go immediately to rehab. They just need help. It’s not prostitution, but it’s selling your body for sexual viewing.

Melinda: Close enough. The Ludacris part does nothing for me and doesn’t fit in.

Scout: I like his voice, I preferred it in Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” It was sweeter. It’s sad when Ludacris’s part is the most respectful. How do you end up as one of those women?

Melinda: You audition and you never, ever eat...Okay, we’re back to Enrique. He’s playing poker and eyeing another card shark, but conflict looms as some other hottie is clearly headed his way to Cabo...

Scout: I think that’s the girl he just met in the bar earlier and she’s flying in to meet him.

Melinda: Really, I can’t tell that that’s the same girl. And since when it this a flattering line: “If I had a type, girl, it would be you?”... oh, he’s going at it again.

Scout: It’s sad they’re objectifying the women so much that it could be any one.

Melinda: Oh, he just ran into the girlfriend on the steps as he brings the new girl up to join the orgy.

Scout: He looks like a puppy, but he's saying nothing.

Melinda: Cut to another orgy with neither girl. It doesn’t look like Enrique is even taking part in his own orgy. What’s the point?

Scout: There’s one male chest in there.

Melinda: Now he’s on a boat with some gorgeous scenery but he’s narrowed it down to the two girls from the stairs. My goodness, one of them is very forgiving.  Oh good God, the obligatory girl-on-girl faux kiss. They can’t even commit to that. I hate that this is supposedly  every man’s fantasy.

Scout: Weird time for them to get morals.

Melinda: I don’t think it was morals that stopped them. What’s your final thought on the video? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Scout: Vomit.

Melinda: I don’t think that’s the reaction Enrique was going for.

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